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OWS Arts Asks Sculptor to Urge City to Remove Barricades Around His Art [UPDATED]

by Hrag Vartanian on November 8, 2011

A view of Mark di Suvero's "Joie de Vivre" looking down Cedar Street toward Broadway. (taken by the author)

We’ve covered the way members of Occupy Wall Street have grappled with the Mark di Suvero sculpture at the corner of Zuccotti Park. They’ve called it a “weird red thing” and some think of it as corporate art, but now the Arts and Culture Working Group of OWS is making an appeal to the artist to help remove the barricades surrounding the sculpture so that it continues to be part of the park and the activity taking part in it.

The letter recognizes di Suvero’s past activism:

We are conscious of your role in the creation of the Peace Tower (1966 and 2006), and your public opposition to the wars in Vietnamand Iraq. Your work is an integral part of our collective history, and the tradition of artists whoexercise their responsibility as public citizens.

A sign that uses the official Metropolitan Museum logo on the barricades. (via OWS Arts and Culture letter)

It is curious why there is Metropolitan Museum signage on the barricades surrounding the sculpture. I reached out to the Metropolitan Museum’s communications department for comment and they say they are unaware of the sign but would look into the matter. Could the sign be a joke/critique on the part of a protester? We’ll let you know as we learn more.

UPDATE: I received the following note from the Met regarding the sign:

It’s accurate to say that the Metropolitan Museum was unaware that the barricade labeled with the Met’s name was being used there. After checking around, it seems that the barricade must have been picked up accidentally from outside the museum with other, unlabeled barricades after a City event (perhaps a parade) and then transferred to the park.

They added that the di Suvero work of art behind the barricades in the photo doesn’t have a connection to the Met.

Here is the letter in full:

OWS Arts & Culture: Letter to Marc Di Suvero (11/07/2011)

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  • Matthew Langley

    The Met sign? who knows/cares.

    But truth be told the #OWS protestors have been nothing if not disrespectful to his artwork from day one. Suddenly they realize that one of the most quietly political artists in the world has been on-site the whole time and now they want him to speak at a teach-in after multiple acts of vandalism to his artwork.

    Talk about some balls.

    However I wouldn’t be surprised if he does it. 

    His dedication to his beliefs are legendary as is his ability to put those beliefs into action. 

    M

    • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

      Matthew, I think your assessment is right but I disagree with the idea of disrespect here. I think anyone who makes public art should expect people to respond to the work, even through vandalism, etc. If you don’t then perhaps one should consider not making public art. Putting work into the public sphere is about receiving responses, not receiving only the ones you like.

      • Matthew Langley

        Hrag:
        I’m not saying they have to play “ring around the rosie” around it, and wax poetic about it. But writing on it, taping signs to it, and being unwilling to give it a name other than “Weird Red Thing” seems a bit disrespectful to me. 

        I also don’t agree with vandalism on any level. Although I know that there are some who do. It’s contrary to my beliefs to destroy what others have or have placed in front of us simply because it may serve my needs.

        I’m not sure that I believe the ends justify the means. In this or any case.

        off topic, but kind of on – let’s call this a side note:
        I’m reminded of the statues of Bhudda that were destroyed in 2001. These statues had been around since the 5th century. I openly wept when I read about the destruction to them. So much energy towards the negative. It still makes very little sense.

        • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

          I agree about the Buddha statue but that was a case when the work was obliterated. In this case it is simply hanging signs and writing commentary on the sculpture. I would disagree with the sculpture being destroyed but in this case I think it’s very interesting that it has inadvertently become part of the discussion and hopefully some will become educated about di Suvero, modernist art and past art activism (that’s my hope, anyway).

          • Matthew Langley

            like I said off topic, but kinda on topic. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    The leap to the buddhas by way of the sculpture being used essentially as a kiosk (actually vandalism was very minor) is quite a stretch. As far as the dubbing it “weird red thing”, again quite a stretch to call that ‘disrespectful’. C’mon, if nothing else, it just serves as further evidence of the general public’s disconnect from most ‘public art’.

  • Anonymous

    I find the public release of the letter to be a bit tasteless.  The Arts & Culture Committee has put di Suvero in an uncomfortable position, unless of course he already fully supports what they’re asking of him… and that is quite possible.  However, in that case, would he really be sitting back and waiting for an invitation?  It almost seems like bullying.  Not to mention that publicly calling out an individual seems a strange tactic from a derivative group of a movement espousing a single, collective voice.

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